Clean up deteriorating neighborhoods, residents tell Dayton officials

A grassroots organization is pressing the city of Dayton to take steps to counter what it describes as deplorable conditions and a harmful lack of investment in local neighborhoods.

But Dayton officials and elected leaders said the city has worked aggressively to clean up neighborhoods despite limited funding, and some of the group’s recommendations are already being done or are in the works.

Local neighborhoods are deteriorating and lack opportunities, said Sol Amen-Ra, a local business owner and member of Neighborhoods Over Politics, during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s city commission meeting.

Neighborhood Over Politics, a group of local residents, is urging the city to adopt new strategies to revitalize neighborhoods, including participating in a program that could change how it uses federal community development dollars.

“Our proposed solution is a Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area — NRSA — designation,” Amen-Ra said.

The city needs a comprehensive, block-by-block demolition and rehabilitation plan for all of its 65 neighborhoods, beginning with the most distressed parts of Dayton, he said.

Amen-Ra, who was one of several dozen Neighborhoods Over Politics members who attended Wednesday’s meeting, outlined eight objectives his group wants the city to adopt through a resolution.

These included the creation of a strategic demolition plan, vacant-land management plan and safeguards and deed restrictions on the city’s delinquent real estate acquisition program.

The group asked the city to revisit its demolition priorities and to offer enhanced programming to help low-income property owners maintain their homes and buildings and resolve code violations.

The city needs more effective programs to address nuisance structures and property decay stemming from neglect, said Shenise Turner-Sloss, a member of Neighborhoods Over Politics.

Dayton should work to designate some of its neighborhoods as Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas, which would provide the city with greater flexibility on how it can spend CDBG funds to benefit those parts, Turner-Sloss said.

The city of Dayton receives Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from the the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Designated strategic areas are exempt from certain federal regulations on the grant funds, including a requirement that economic development activities must have an aggregate public benefit, according to the agency.

Designated areas do not have to comply with federal caps on the amount of CDBG dollars that can be used for certain public services, such as child care, health care, job training, education programs, public safety services, fair housing activities, homebuyer downtown assistance and other activities.

Dayton commissioners said they share the same goals as Neighborhoods Over Politics, and commissioners welcomed their input and promised to consider their ideas.

“It seems to me that all of your points make sense to me,” said Commissioner Joey Williams. “The other side is that a lot of the points, it seems like we’re kind of working on.”

In response to Amen-Ra’s comments, city administration and staff discussed some of the programs underway or in the works that seek to eliminate blight, invest in neighborhoods and strengthen affordable housing.

City Manager Shelley Dickstein said Neighborhoods Over Politics will have plenty of opportunities to work with the city to provide recommendations for how to revive struggling parts of Dayton.

She said there is a great deal of overlap between what the group wants and what the city is doing as part of revitalization and community development efforts.

“There is a lot of common ground that we are already planning on integrating,” she said.

The city has an asset-based development strategy that covers housing, infrastructure, safety, civic and social support and economic, workforce and funds development, she said.

The city is putting together a detailed work plan to identify key priorities across Dayton because the community’s needs far outweighs the city’s resources to address them, she said.

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